Soup Stalled

Food Depot cancels annual Souper Bowl fundraiser for second year in a row as COVID-19 cases rise

Santa Feans won’t be voting on the best soup in town anytime soon.

The Food Depot, Northern New Mexico’s food bank that serves about 39,000 people across nine counties, is once again canceling its annual Souper Bowl fundraiser, which marked its 26th year when it was last held in February 2020.

The fundraiser, in which a packed house of attendees vote for their favorite soups made by local chefs, typically generates funding for about 220,000 meals.

Deputy Director Jill Dixon says the Food Depot was making tentative plans over the summer but after the Delta variant emerged, the organization sent out a survey in early November to former attendees, restaurants and volunteers to get feedback. The majority of respondents were either undecided or unsupportive.

“There were a lot of requests for safety considerations that just couldn’t be handled inside that kind of venue,” Dixon tells SFR. “We just didn’t have a resounding ‘yes,’ which sort of sealed the deal for us. Over the past three weeks, I have thought again and again and again that I’m so glad we made the decision we did.”

Dixon says donations made up for the gap left by last year’s cancellation, a trend she hopes will continue, perhaps in part through contributions from would-be attendees in the amount of tickets, which were $35 in 2020.

“Losing any funding is a big deal but certainly that method of receiving funding isn’t worth the public health risk,” Dixon says. “People have been incredibly generous across the pandemic and I think that seeing that there was a really profound need that was greater than any we’ve ever faced really mobilized folks.”

From March 2020 to March 2021, the Food Depot saw a 30% increase in hunger relief services. The number of people seeking assistance flattened out last year but hasn’t yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Demand hasn’t changed much over the past month despite the record COVID-19 case surge the state is experiencing, which Dixon attributes primarily to the lack of business closures thus far.

But with Santa Fe Public Schools suspending in-person learning for at least a week starting on Tuesday, the Food Depot is “keeping a very close eye” on community needs, Dixon says.

“The public school system provides so many meals to children who are coming to us from families that are struggling economically, so that can oftentimes increase the demand when we don’t have our school meals as a resource,” Dixon says.

When the pandemic first hit New Mexico nearly two years ago, the school district provided free breakfast and lunch at drive-up stations.

About 23% of children in the region the Food Depot serves are affected by food insecurity, according to Dixon.

On top of the Souper Bowl cancellation, the Food Depot is making a handful of other changes out of safety concerns, including shutting down to outside visitors and conducting meetings virtually.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.